Sunday, September 15, 2013

‘TIMBER IN THE CITY: Urban Habitats’ Competition

By Lani Walker
For our undergraduate senior studio in the spring semester of 2013, our students participated in the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) ‘TIMBER IN THE CITY: Urban Habitats’ Competition.  The goal was to design a mixed-use complex for housing, job training, wood manufacturing, wood technology center, and a wood distribution center.  The design of the complex was focused on embracing new wood technology in a variety of ways such as vertical mid-rise framing (Mass Timber Systems), interior partitioning (stud framing or modular panelized systems), exterior cladding (modular assemblies), and long-span structure (glulam beams or other composite members)1.  The project was located in the neighborhood of Red Hook, in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, U.S.A.  I found the competition to be a great opportunity to address the needs of the vibrant Red Hook community while learning more than I ever had about engineered wood in construction. 
Before designing, I focused my research on engineered wood types such as glued laminated timber (glulam), cross laminated timber (CLT), laminated veneer lumber, parallel strand lumber, wood I-joists and wood I-beams.  Although wood has been used for buildings for thousands of years, engineered wood is now being used regularly in construction due to its versatility and a variety of other advantages.   Throughout my research, I learned that engineered wood offers greater structural strength that typical wood.  However, even with the increased strength that engineered wood offers, the challenge became how to design the ‘TIMBER IN THE CITY’ complex from engineered wood when mid-rise and high-rise buildings are usually constructed in concrete or steel. 
I began to look towards a study called ‘The Case for Tall Wood Buildings’ by Michael Green, Principle at Michael Green Architecture2. The study was recommended to students in the ACSA ‘TIMBER IN THE CITY: Urban Habitats’ Competition program documents.  Michael Green’s study introduces a new construction model for mid-rise and high-rise wood buildings known as Finding the Forest Through the Trees (FFTT). The FFTT system uses mass timber panels which are strong enough to allow up to thirty stories yet have a much lighter carbon footprint that that of just concrete and steel systems.  The study also addresses how the FFTT system can meet fire and life safety requirements while still being very affordable. 
Throughout the course of the studio, myself and other students had the opportunity to learn about all the current advances in wood technology, and how to incorporate those advances into our design for a new Live/Work complex in Red Hook, Brooklyn, NYC.  Although my studio did not enter our designs to the competition, we followed the competitions guidelines for our senior studio final project.  Ultimately, it was a great learning experience for my design studio because the project made me balance the history of the Red Hook community with my design aesthetics, innovate with new and old wood building materials, offer affordable construction, and provide a healthy Live/Work environment for the tenants of the ‘TIMBER IN THE CITY’ complex. 

The ‘TIMBER IN THE CITY’ First Place winners: Benjamin Bye, Alex Kenton, and Jason Rood of the University of Oregon, proposed the Grow Your Own City’ complex.
Image: Perspective of ‘Grow Your Own City’ building complex.
Image: Aerial View of ‘Grow Your Own City’ building complex.

You can see the entire projects from the ‘TIMBER IN THE CITY’ First Place, Second Place, and Honorable Mention winners from the link below.


1Timber in the City

2The Case for Tall Wood Buildings

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